By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) wailed over the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) refusal to endorse world No. 5 pole vaulter EJ Obiena in four major international competitions, including the World Indoor Championships in Serbia later this month.
Obiena, the national and Asian record holder, wrote to Patafa on Feb. 24 seeking for endorsement for the world indoors in Belgrade on March 18 to 20, the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 12 to 23, the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon on July 15 to 24 and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China (Sept. 12 to 25).
But Patafa denied his request in a letter signed by Patafa training director Renato Unso on Monday, citing non-completion of mediation procedures.
“By authority of the Patafa Board of Trustees, please be informed that the Patafa Board of Trustees will not act on your letter … pending completion of the mediation process being conducted by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC),” the Patafa said in its response.
POC President and Tagaytay Rep. Bambol Tolentino refused to buy Patafa’s stand.
“Again, how many more gold medals or what more achievements does EJ need to get Patafa’s endorsement? He’s the best in Asia and his numbers have been rising consistently, but still he’s bound to be denied more medals for the country,” Tolentino said.
Patafa chief Philip Juico, however, denied that they have Obiena’s request of endorsement.
“Who said it was denied? They don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s Patafa’s call and no fake news will distract us from our priorities, philosophy and values,” said Juico
In the letter, Obiena said his 5.81m record in his two title victories in the Orlen Cup and the Orlen Copernicus Cup both in Poland last month officially made the standard required for the 2022 World Indoor Athletics Championship and the 2022 World Athletics Championship.
It was also a far cry from his gold-medal feat of 5.45m at the 2019 SEAG and the 2018 Asian Games gold medal standard of 5.70m.
Patafa, however, denied his request citing the non-completion of mediation procedures.
Obiena and Patafa have been at odds for the past months after the association accused the Tokyo Olympian of allegedly misusing government funds with questionable liquidation records.
The dispute even reached the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Patafa president Philip Juico filed a complaint against Obiena and the POC last Feb. 11.
Twice, the PSC offered to mediate between the two parties, but Obiena begged off.
During the Senate Hearing early last month, however, Obiena agreed to join the mediation.
The POC reiterated its effort to help Obiena compete in international competitions.